This series will feature the top NFL Draft prospects with insight from the beat reporters that covered them in college. This article is just a preview of the full interview which can be heard on the Deep Slant podcast.
Name: Kayvon Thibodeaux
Height/Weight: 6-5, 258
Hometown: South Central Los Angeles, California
Below is a portion of Deep Sidhu's interview with Oregon Ducks beat reporter, Rob Moseley, who covers Oregon football for GoDucks.com.
Sidhu: Kayvon Thibodeaux is widely projected to be one of the top picks in this year's draft, and he's even been projected to go No. 3 to the Houston Texans with some of these mock drafts that have come out recently. What do you think his best asset is when he lines up on the field and what might separate him from some of the other defensive players at the top of the board?
Moseley: He's just incredibly athletic. His flexibility is top-notch, so his ability to bend at the waist and get low and get around the edge is unlike anything I've really seen before covering a player day-to-day. So, yeah, just that explosiveness off the line, he's just different. Oregon football, over the last 20 years or so, has been pretty good and has put out some pretty good players. You know, (DE) Dion Jordan a few years ago, although he didn't have ended up having a great pro career, was a high-level prospect. And yeah, I mean, I think K.T. (Thibodeaux), there may not be an equal to him in terms of a guy with that ability off the edge, that kind of explosive athleticism off the edge.
Sidhu: He's obviously an elite pass rusher. He's good against the run. He seems to do all of it really, really well. Where do you where do you foresee him fitting into an NFL defense if you had to guess?
Moseley: I do know that we saw him move around a lot here and have success. I mean, he could play on the edge and drop back into coverage. Tim DeRuyter, the defensive coordinator here the last couple of years, really liked that kind of positional flexibility he provided. But we also saw times over the last three years where he'd move inside to a tackle position. I remember against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl a couple of years ago, he moved inside and was taking on a Big Ten center and winning battles at the line of scrimmage. He really showed at different times that he could do a little bit of everything when asked.
Sidhu: He's obviously just such a great athlete but his sack numbers are not super high compared to some of the other big defenders in this draft class. Is that a big deal or is there more to Thibodeaux that just doesn't show up in the stat sheet?
Moseley: I think a couple of caveats to that would be one, he demanded a lot of attention here as any elite pass rusher in a draft class is going to be the best guy on their team and probably commanded some extra attention. So this probably applies to all the high-level pass rushers that are going to be in this draft class. But yeah, he was definitely getting a lot of attention from opposing blocking schemes, particularly this past year. And then the other thing is, he missed it felt like almost half the season due to injuries that kept him out of parts or all of the games and so that affected his statistical totals, too. Still, a guy who is First-Team, All-League, things like that, garnering still a ton of respect from the players he went against. He won the Morris Trophy a couple of years ago, as the best defensive lineman in our conference. What's notable about that is the people who select that are opposing offensive linemen. He definitely had the respect of his peers on the other side of the ball around our league. So, statistics obviously can help tell a story, but obviously not a complete story.
I think one notable thing about him, too, is if you look at his postseason performances, I mentioned the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin a couple of years ago. If you look at his output in the couple of the PAC-12 Championship games, he did play in his first couple of years. I mean, it was like a couple of sacks a game in those PAC-12 Championship games. So he had the ability to, when the lights were shining brightest, to be at his best.
Sidhu: Along those lines, is there a particular game or a play or a matchup that really stands out to you in covering Thibodeaux?
Moseley: I think it's really that. I think it's that when you look at the fourth quarter against Utah when he was a freshman in the conference championship game and then the Rose Bowl that year if you look at the conference championship game against USC in 2020, those were his best moments. Those are the moments he's shined the brightest. So to have a guy who, when you're going against the best competition on the biggest stages, have those be your most noteworthy performances, I think that says something about just his ability to play under pressure and to come through for his team when they need him.
Sidhu: I'm so intrigued by some of the stuff I've read about him personally. It seems like he's really business-minded. He has a collaboration with Nike. He launched his own cryptocurrency. What's he like to cover off field? What's his personality like?
Moseley: He's just a guy with a sense for the big picture and a sense for the other doors that being an elite athlete can open up. When he was first choosing a college, he was interested in media and so a big part of coming to Oregon was the journalism school here and how that might help him. I think when you see how savvy he is, how polished he is in media settings and interview situations, it's because he's been preparing himself to handle those situations well through his education. And when you see him getting into like NFTs and things like that - now it seems like everybody's doing that - but you know, he was one of the first, partnering with Tinker Hatfield, the Nike designer, to have an NFT. For some people, I think that makes it seem like he's distracted, perhaps not as focused as some other players. But again, you look at his performances in big games. He comes through for his team. So he I think he makes some other sacrifices in his life, socially, things like that, so that he can be ready on the football field, but then also indulge these other interests that make him a really worldly guy, a really polished guy, really poised guy.